INTERVIEW // Lamar Johnson
November 28th // Interviewer: Shane Allen // TV
Lamar Johnson plays the character Kofi, in Showtimes brand new show Your Honor, premiering December 5th. Take a look as he breaks down his character and what it took to find him.
Your Honor is a story that shows you how as people, we all come from different circumstances. How the environments we live in can dictate our positions in society and exposes those unfair advantages that work in favor of some and against others.
Lamar's Character Kofi exemplifies just that, when the odds are against you and how somethings are not in your control. How do you persevere and hold your own when everything seems to you have nothing to hold on to.
Without giving too much away, can you explain who your character is in Your Honor?
His name is Kofi, a teenager that lives in the ninth ward of New Orleans. He is just a product of his circumstance, as a lot of people are. He’s a product of that environment. He's the eldest out of all of his siblings and he has a responsibility to provide, he sort of the father figure for the family. He is tasked with doing this job that just goes horribly wrong for him. He's forced to make a bigger decision than he is. It's no longer about him. It's about his family and the safety of his family and the safety of his siblings. He's met with an ultimatum and he makes a decision.
What do you think are the most important aspects of the character that you were trying to portray?
This character is a big catalyst for what premise of the show and what's it's rooted in. It’s a bigger conversation about privilege and about sacrifice. I talked to a lot of the drivers in New Orleans and the people that live there. They would say these things are real, these stories that we're tellinging are real. New Orleans is pretty, but it's corrupt, The show is quite unapologetic and I wanted to be a part of a narrative that was going to push things, push boundaries and make people feel uncomfortable. Start those types of conversations.
I think there's a lot to take from this character,his arc and the sacrifices that he makes. There's a lot of strength in him. For what he endures and what he goes through, he holds onto his strength and he holds onto that integrity, even though there's moments where he feels like he has nothing. You find the makeup of a person when they're met with those types of circumstances and those types of decisions.
In portraying this character, would you say it's more of finding the character within yourself or more kind of wiping yourself clean to build yourself up to a new person?
I think it's a bit of both, It's necessary for you to actually put a bit of yourself in there. So at least there's some truth. You need to find the truth, where's the truth in what it is that you're doing. Then at the same time, you also just have to be present in that character’s circumstance and understand the context of where they come from.
How much freedom do you have in playing this character on set?
You know, it was quite beautiful. I remember actually there was a moment where I did a scene and, my director and I, Edward Berger, we just ended up walking, we're walking and he was telling me,he really liked what you're doing with this character. He said “No, he's yours now,” He gave me a lot of freedom,to arc out this character and make decisions. It was quite collaborative too, Edward was a great director, he helped guide me to where I needed to be.
How was the overall energy on set? Was it a pleasant place to be, did you enjoy your cast members?
My experience was very positive,I had to just be in a specific headspace just because of what Kofi experiences and what he goes through in the show. I just had to allow myself to be in a space. The environment and everything was very light. Even if we're doing something that was very heavy, it still remained light, which was really great to feel and have. I think everybody on set knew what we were creating. Everybody showed up every day ready to work.It was a very positive experience.
What were some of you first creative outlets as a kid?
Well, I actually started off as a dancer. I started doing that professionally and was part of ldance crew. I did all of those things and got perform at the Apollo theater. Dance led me to go to an art school in high school. So I went to an art school in high school and that's when I picked up acting. Acting just kind of became my second love. I made the transition from dance to acting because it just started to encompass my world.
If you can succeed in one art form, you can put that same energy into something else.
Exactly. I think also for artists, it's a form of expression. It all comes from the same place, regardless of the medium, whether it's dance, whether it's painting, whether it's acting, design, it's just about finding the lane that you're going to step into and express yourself through that.
What's the main difference between like a process of practicing for dance compared to acting. Cause dancing, you can dance anywhere, but that's not so much the case for acting.
I know that's actually quite interesting. Well the process for dance is what you said, you can really dance anywhere. You can dance to anything, you can dance to nothing. With acting you sort of need a setup facilitated for yourself to get to where you need it, if that makes sense. So the process of dancing is more of a physical thing, right? You would have rehearsals just like how you would have rehearsals for acting, you're still working a muscle, but with dance, It's more of a physical act,
Acting is more mental and emotional. You have to kind of marry all of these things and be in line. You tap in, it's more carried through the dialogue and driven through story. Whereas dancing is driven more through music.